2011 Theatre In Review

The sets have been packed away, the lights de-rigged, costumes washed and the actors moved on to learning their next set of lines (or scouring The Stage for that elusive next audition).

Unlike some award ceremonies that drag on for days with awards for best use of vegetables, outstanding performance by a second trombone and most authentic Shakespearian codpiece; this list has just two categories – my top ten and bottom ten shows of the year.

So in no particular order, let’s start on a positive note with the Top Ten ‘hits’ of 2011 and a celebration of some superlative work

• The Go Between – West Yorkshire Playhouse and tour

For those who say that new British Musicals are dead, The Go Between blows their argument clear out of the water. If there is a stronger musical this year I would be very surprised.

• Parade – Southwark Playhouse
Showing that small-scale isn’t a dirty word, Southwark Playhouse’s production of Jason Robert Brown’s musical proved a musical powerhouse.

• The Animals And Children Took To The Streets – 1927 Productions (BAC, Latitude, National Theatre)

Created before this summer’s riots, 1927’s multimedia tale of repression suddenly became highly topical.

• Company – Crucible Sheffield
Southwark Playhouse’s production was good but Sheffield’s production of Sondheim’s relationship musical was simply faultless

• Decade – St Katherine’s Dock
Multi-authored response to the tenth anniversary of 9/11 performed in a chillingly accurate recreation of The Windows On The World restaurant

• London Road – National Theatre
For those of us who lived through the horrors of the Ipswich murders it may be painful but this look at impact on the community redefines musical theatre.

• King Lear – West Yorkshire Playhouse
A year that saw multiple Lear’s but West Yorkshire playhouse’s production steals the crown in a production of pagan clarity.

• The Lady In The Van – Hull Truck (Tour)
Hull Truck’s revival of Bennett’s autobiographical play about his unorthodox lodger surpasses the original West End production

• Romeo & Juliet – Night Light Theatre (Tour)
A reduced 70 minute version of the classic love story set against an imaginative space age setting. Reduced maybe but loses none of the power or story

• The Time Out – Latitude, Edinburgh and tour
Theatre that turns its audience into a crack water polo team? Audience participation taken to the extreme but with skill and ingenuity that never feels forced or pressured.

To balance the universe there also has to be some less than successful work…The Ten ‘misses’ of 2011

• Wastwater – The Royal Court
An ‘elliptical triptych’ and the play has as much meaning as its subtitle. An impressive set and some strong performances couldn’t hide the feeling of ‘why’

• Terrible Advice – Menier Chocolate Factory
With a title like that it is somewhat hostage to fortune but while the cast do their best the script is little more than a pedestrian sit com try-out.

• Rhinestone Mondays – Colchester Mercury and tour
A line dancing, country music, karaoke musical featuring half of Steps – what could possibly go wrong? A musical that would work better without the songs.

• Rock Of Ages – Shaftesbury Theatre
You know you are in trouble when the musac being played in the gents is stronger than that onstage. Loud and brash doesn’t hide the desperation of this tribute to Poodle Rock.

• I Am The Wind – Young Vic
All at sea with nowhere to go. Despite a impressive flooded set this European drama sinks with an impenetrable script.

• Hamlet:1603 – White Bear
The so called bad quarto lives up to its name in a production that does little to convince that it should be performed more often.

• 20th Century Boy – New Wolsey Theatre
The march of jukebox musicals continues with a tribute to the music of Marc Bolan that, despite strong musical performances, is hindered by a leaden book and script.

• Nicked – HiTide Festival
Though it scores marks for topicality and braveness, this musical about Nick Clegg’s rise to power and his referendum on electoral reform fails to win many votes.

• Ex – Soho Theatre
A one act sketch stretched too thinly to make a two act musical. Unpleasant characters and instantly forgettable songs make it hard to love this show.

• Greenland – National Theatre
Ok, if there was an award for best polar bear on stage, the outcome would be different but as there’s not this multi-authored look at global warming skates on thin ice.

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